Lacrosse World Championships 2023

Men's World Championships

Originally, these World Championships were scheduled to take place in Canada in 2022, but as with so many other events in the last few years, things got rearranged. So now it got shifted to June 2023 in San Diego, California. The official website is currently at but there's much more information (currently) at


The Wikipedia page shows a good overview of the tournament and the participating nations. This time it's been deliberately restricted to a much more manageable 30 countries instead of the 46 last time.

Many of the familiar names are here, but there are some unknown quantities — who knows what to expect from Jamaica, or Hong Kong, or Peru? And one other interesting change: the team of First Nation native Americans formerly referred to as "Iroquois Nations" is now listed by their own name "Haudenosaunee" (pronounced by the broadcasters more like "Hoh-dena-shoh-ni".


Like previous lacrosse championships, the groups were again split very deliberately into a "top" division and several others. So "Pool A" contained the top 5 teams in the world, and the four semi-finalists of the whole competition were very likely to all come from this group - USA, Canada, Haudenosaunee, Australia and England. Which was bad news for England, as they would struggle to get a single win here in the group phase.

The other groups ("Pool B" to "Pool F") each contained a range of rankings, so the next top contenders (those likely in advance to dominate each group) wouldn't meet each other until the subsequent phase of the competition.

The teams who finish 1st and 2nd in "Pool A" go straight through to the quarter-finals, saving a game. The next twelve teams will playoff to enter the quarter-finals, so potentially any team in any pool can work their way through to the semi-finals.


The pool games took place from June 21st to June 26th, followed immediately by the playoffs until June 30th. Then the last day was Saturday July 1st, with the 3rd/4th place game and then the final.

Because the games took place in California, many games (such as the final) start at 4:00 pm local time, which makes them really late for people watching live from Europe. Unfortunately getting decent time-shifted coverage proved once again difficult.

After the pool games were completed, there were no big surprises in the main pool A, but the other pools provided some nail-biting finishes, and the occasional borderline buzzer-beater. There were to be no tied games here, so if the score ended level after four quarters, play continued in one or more overtime periods until the next goal was scored. Sometimes this was scored quickly, but for some games two overtime periods or even up to four(!) overtime periods were required to settle the winner. Several games ended 9-8, 8-7 or 7-6 providing plenty for the fans to cheer. And on more than one occasion a disallowed goal (was the shot before the buzzer? was the foot in the crease?) proved decisive for the game.

The result tables can be found at wikipedia, with all group winners remaining unbeaten - the USA, Japan, Israel, Jamaica, Italy and Ireland.

There were a couple of strange rules regarding rankings within the group table. Firstly, goal difference wasn't considered at all when two teams finished the group with an equal number of wins. Only the victor between those two teams when they played each other in the group counts. So this made all the scorelines apart from that one completely irrelevant, which can't be right. By considering the overall goal difference for all games, it encourages all teams to also play full power even in the last game, even when they're winning, even when they're losing. But making the scoreline irrelevant just encourages teams to coast once the outcome became clear, if the scorelines don't matter.

Secondly, during the ranking phase, teams from different groups had to be compared, to arrange the games for the playoff brackets. For example, Germany ended Pool D at 3-1 with a goal difference of +16, and Puerto Rico ended Pool C also at 3-1 with +16. The way they decided to compare them is by favouring the team with the _lowest_ number of goals conceded (and because the goal differences are equal, hence that's the team which also _scored_ the lowest number of goals). This may not make a huge difference, because both teams then entered the top 14, but it's an odd way to compare them in my opinion. Don't we want _more_ goals, more action?

The standout team was Japan, dominating their group with a +64 goal difference over their four games. They also beat Germany convincingly 9-4 in the qualification round to enter the 5th-8th bracket, but this is where it got weird. Instead of these four teams (England, Japan, Israel and Jamaica) entering a four-way playoff, just like other four-team groups, for some reason they ranked these four teams somehow and decided that England should play Japan for 5th place and Israel against Jamaica for 7th. Why not just play an extra pair of games to sort this out?


The semifinals were played by exactly who we thought, and the weirdness in the 5th to 8th group makes that one a little arbitrary. For Jamaica it's a big coup to get into this bracket, thanks to their victory over Italy in the qualifiers.

Puerto Rico will be disappointed with their overtime loss to England, dropping them down into the 9th to 14th bracket, and Japan entered their final game extremely keen to show themselves against England, potentially pushing to join the top league in the next championships if they could finish fifth this time. And as it happened Japan did indeed pip England to take fifth place with a perhaps flattering 8-4 scoreline. The game between Israel and Jamaica could easily have gone either way, but Israel clinched it with an overtime goal to take 7th place. What would have happened if England had played against either Israel or Jamaica we don't know, but perhaps England might have slipped even another rankings place. That will have to remain a mystery. Jamaica meanwhile enjoy a huge boost from 13th place to inside the top eight in the world.

Germany had a very close final game against Ireland, with penalties proving crucial. An overtime goal gave them an 11th place finish, confirming their previous ranking. Wales beat Poland to secure 19th place but that's still 5 places lower than last time.


This has to be discussed every time, because the sport of lacrosse is so hugely localised and if a player has the opportunity to play high level lacrosse in the United States or Canada, with expert coaching, playing experience and support, this is a huge advantage compared to playing domestic lacrosse in other countries where the sport is not so developed. Add to this the rule that any country can field up to four players which don't even have the nationality of the country (really?), then you get a hugely unbalanced dynamic. With the rules as they are, many games can descend into farce where "our American" (born and raised in the US) plays an iso against "their American" (ditto) and scores a goal, while "representing" a country they've never even been to.

Some recent interview quotes have begun to stress that some players have "visited" the country they're playing for, sometimes even more than once. Yet much of the match commentary revolves around which US college (or professional US team) the representatives of other countries come from. It's tough on the players too, of course, and increasingly one single nationality is not so clearly defined — there's the one or two nationalities of the parents, the player may have been born and raised in a third country, perhaps currently living or studying or playing in a fourth country, so which country does it make sense for that player to represent? I don't know, but it's certainly not as clear as it was fifty years ago when nationalities weren't so fluid.

So now we're back to the results, and what does it tell us about the state of lacrosse in England, in Japan, in Jamaica, in Puerto Rico or the Philippines? I really don't know. Is the game spreading worldwide? Or does it just mean that there are more English (or half-English, or not at all English) players playing at a high level in the US right now? It seems impossible to say. Does that even matter? There doesn't seem to be an alternative format which makes more sense. And the fact that the teams here put on some great shows, with fantastic skills, individual and team play, close competitive matches, and largely clean sportsmanship proves that maybe using flags and countries is still ok. For now. We'll see what the next championships (scheduled for 2026) bring.

The good, the bad and the weird

First, the good:

The bad:

The weird:

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